November 18, 2007

Don't let that get in your way

When other people talk about being bad knitters, I try to reassure them that knitting takes practice. And no one is judging their mistakes.

For example, last week one of my classmates mentioned that she never felt comfortable going to a SNB because she didn’t think she was “good enough at knitting.” I assured her that SNBs were open to all skill levels and that the other knitters would welcome her enthusiastically. We’ve all been beginners at some point.

Then the next day, the woman sitting next to me on the train mentioned that she learned to knit last year. But she said she doesn’t do it much because she’s “horrible at it.” I laughed and said “you just can’t let that get in the way.”

What I should have said is that everyone is horrible at first, and it gets much easier the more you do it. And that the great thing about knitting is that it really doesn’t matter if you suck. The important thing is that you enjoy doing it.

That’s what I say to other people. And I believe it when I say it.

But in my own life, I strenuously avoid things I’m not good at, and I have a near-pathological terror of making mistakes (though not so much with the knitting, thankfully, given my mistake-to-success ratio).

I seem to think I should already be good at everything, even things that take practice. When I struggle or make mistakes, I feel stupid and slow, and I berate myself for it. Like if I were just a better/more focused/smarter/dedicated person I could magically develop skills out of the ether.

This often keeps me from trying new things, taking risks or making commitments. The prime example? I want to write. And I’m not giving myself time or permission to write because I’m desperately afraid I’ll suck at it.

No more. Because maybe I don’t have to be good at it right away, and maybe my writing doesn’t have to be perfect. I just need to do it.

Because it’s important to me. And because doing it - even badly – would be better than not doing it at all.

Much like knitting.

(Please note, I’m not implying that blogging isn’t writing or that it’s less valuable or less demanding than other kinds of writing. I'm talking about writing fiction).


Karen said...

Amen - I agree with everything you said 100%!! I tend to believe I need to be great at everything from the start too, or else there is something wrong with me. Good for you facing that misconception head on and not letting it discourage you!

Kristy said...

Good for you! I've always found your writing interesting on your blog. Maybe that doesn't count in your mind, but I read a *lot* of blog posts and I know what I'm talking about :)

I also think that being creative in one area helps with being creative in another. You already know the process.

Jenny said...

Yes! Okay so I know the point here is that you need to do it whether you suck or not, but in this particular venture I have so much faith that you'll kick ASS. You're an excellent and very engaging writer. And if you don't keep doing it anyway and we'll still love you!

Quirkles said...

I absolutely believe you'll be a success at fiction writing. You blog writing is intelligent and funny, so there is no reason to think your fiction would be anything but.

Deb said...

1. Hey, this is looking like it'll turn out pretty good
2. My God, I've ruined it. Look at this mess!
3. Wait. Maybe I could....
Norman Rockwell summarizing his process. (and I think the process that most people in creative pursuits must go through.)

It's so hard to put those words down and not have it immediately spark the way it does in your head, but just keep repeating to yourself, it's a first draft. First drafts are going to suck. That's why there are second drafts (and third and fourth and fifth...) You can do it. One word at a time.

(Words from a fellow obsessive perfectionist.)

Quinn said...

I don't like to knit or write fiction, but I like to read everything you blog about knitting and writing fiction. This makes me think that you should absolutely do both as much as you can. And you should blog about them both, because I love to see you suffer . . uh, I mean shine as you do the things you love.

Olga said...

I know what you mean! Especially the older I get, the less likely I am to try new things, so when I do and I struggle, I end up frustrated and mortified instead of just enjoying the process. Example: learning to snowboard. perhaps, though, people older than 30 simply should not learn to snowboard.

Macoco said...

You're already a fabulous blog writer so I have faith that you'll be a great fiction writer as well. Learning a new skill is intimidating, but like you said, practice, practice, practice.

francois_attree said...

"Bad" knitters are usually just slow. I think you can knit almost any pattern if you just stick at it. And writing is similar. Most famous writers seem to say the important thing is to keep at it. If you don't start, you'll never finish.